Alec Klein: Stealing Time

I spent a day with Alec Klein back in 2001, when I was at Netscape. Alec was interested in covering our dynamic young president, Jim Bankoff, a long-time AOLer who’d come West to help steady and grow the brand. Alec was interested in seeing Jim in action, so the PR department arranged for Alec to shadow Jim. One day, Jim, myself, Alec, and the PR guy spent the day in a series of meetings in Mountain View and Los Angeles, with the economy travel showing Alec was a down to earth company we were.
Here’s the thing that was so interesting Klein’s a superb reporter who uses silence and a cover of sleepiness to gather information. Although his writing is as sharp as it comes, Klein’s persona that day was low-key and definitely naive.
Clearly, it was a tactic that worked, because in addition to the sweet feature he turned out on Jim for the Washington Post (unfortunately it ran the same day AOL announced layoffs of about 300 people), he went on to report on the company’s financial and business practices, stories which led to investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.